How to Properly Cite Sources Online

Running through Evernote this weekend, catching up with notes and cleaning out various notebooks, I chanced upon a great post from the Hubspot blog by Corey Wainwright, “How Not to Steal People’s Content on the Web.” While weighing in at a respectable 2,261 words, it is worth the read. In the meantime, if you’re pressed for time, here is a down and dirty laundry list of what to do when crediting others in your work.

  1. Credit everyone whose work you use in creating your article or publication.
  2. Use live links to lead people back to the source of original content. For instance, take a look at the end of this article for a credit to photographer Jesus Kiteque for my use of his image for the featured image on this post.
  3. If you’re referencing a source, use this format: Author’s Last Name, First Initial. Middle Initial. (Date of Publication or Update). Title of work. Retrieved Month Day, Year, from URL of Homepage. Here is what this format would look like in use: Liana Jackson of Happy Go Lucky Company (2012). Be Happy Every Day, retrieved July 4, 2017, from http://www.happyglco.com/
  4. If you’re using a direct quote or data assembled by someone else, set it apart from your regular text and include a citation as part of the quote or reference to the data like this quote from Abraham Lincoln found on the Brainy Quote website, a website that makes it easy to locate quotes. Note that I listed our 16th President’s name in standard format, rather than last name first with a first initial. It would not have looked as nice and everyone can clearly see who I’m quoting. Also, I did not lead you back to BrainyQuote’s homepage. Instead, I lead you to a much more valuable page: one dedicated to President Lincoln. Common sense does rule sometimes!

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. —ABRAHAM LINCOLN, from brainyquote.com

  1. Keep quoted content brief and check to see if the blog has official content usage guidelines. If they do, stick to it! Here is an example from Crazy Egg. If they don’t, here is a starting point for the U.S. Copyright Office Fair Use Guidelines. Here are two sources of information, though I recommend further search:

U.S. Copyright Office, More Information on Fair Use
Stanford University addresses the question, What is Fair Use? Warning: long article!

  1. If you’re embedding graphics, charts, infographics or videos and the website offers embed code, use it and you’re all set. Vimeo is a great example of a website that provides embed code. So is YouTube. If the website doesn’t offer embed code, insert the image as you would any other – just include an active hyperlinked credit to the source right below the image. The credit listed at the end of this article would be fine.
  1. Last but not least, if you’re using someone else’s photograph, art image or illustration you could have a lot of homework ahead of you! Visual media usage presents some of the most complex rules. I recommend only using your own photos or those explicitly labeled with free use. Here is a link to the Wikimedia Commons page where you can access information and links to awesome images and other media.

To recap, be courteous, respectful, and specific and keep credits as close as possible to the relevant content.

Photo by Jesus Kiteque on Unsplash
By | 2017-07-05T06:54:38+00:00 July 4, 2017|Resources|3 Comments
  • Kimberly DesChamp

    Helpful reminders regarding citations! Thank you! P.S. I love the Abe quote!

    • Thanks, Kimberly! Abe was a smart fellow, wasn’t he?

      • Kimberly DesChamp

        And his words perhaps never so timely….